Credit Card without an SSN
October 11, 2005 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I want a US credit card. I don't have a SSN.

New US (temporary) Resident, no SSN (applied for, but waiting). I want a credit card now. How? Who? Where?
posted by blue_beetle to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you actually a resident (i.e. greencard) or do you just mean that you're living in the US with some other status (student visa, work visa etc.)?

I got a credit card by just saying "I don't have an SSN, which was true at the time, and leaving that part of the form blank. You would have to do this in person, since no web form will allow you to do this. Your best route will be through institutions that know you already -- your bank, an affiliate card from a university, if you're affiliated with a university etc.

There are also ways that you can put down cash for a secured credit card. Someone else will fill you in on that, I'm sure.
posted by duck at 12:25 PM on October 11, 2005

If 2600 magazine is at all correct (LOL^10000) the only place in the US allowed to deny you service for your lack of a social insurance number is the IRS and your employer.
posted by shepd at 12:44 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm a temporary resident on a valid work visa. I need a credit card for dumb things like internet hookup, cellphone service, etc. I've applied for an SSN but they told me it could take upto a month before I get it. I would like to get a CC in the meantime to get everything else setup. It seems like everyone requires an SSN.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:44 PM on October 11, 2005

Get an American Express card in your home country. Then get them to tranfer it to the US. AMEX Global Card Transfer. I think someone else asked a similar question a while back.

Also, you don't have to give a SSN on most things that aren't for the government. Companies may make it hard, but technically, they can't refuse you.
posted by GuyZero at 12:48 PM on October 11, 2005

If you're on a work visa, I'd guess that you have an ITIN. If you have an ITIN, you can open a bank account. In that case, you can get a debit card, which isn't ideal but often does the job, and you may well be able to get a secured credit card from your bank. But as duck said, you'll need to apply in person with lots and lots of relevant ID: the web forms and phone operators simply can't handle it.

If you don't have an ITIN (yet), you're stuffed, unless you have a friend, colleague or family member who'll have an additional card issued on his/her account on your behalf.
posted by holgate at 12:52 PM on October 11, 2005

If you've been able to open a bank account, go into that bank and get them to issue you a debit card. The card makes a withdrawal straight from your checking account, instead of giving you credit. If it has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, it will work anywhere you need a credit card number.

If you're having trouble at a bank, try going to a small, neighborhood bank instead of a large chain. They're more likely to actually want your business.
posted by teaperson at 12:54 PM on October 11, 2005

You might not formally have to have an SSN, but without one most credit card companies will reject you because you have no credit history.

You might be able to get an ITIN faster, and use that until your SSN arrives.

You're probably going to need a secured card anyway, again because you have no credit history in the US. Unless you do, of course.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:00 PM on October 11, 2005

I've lived in the US for a while now, and it took me a long time to get my credit history up and running well enough to get a decent credit card. Apply for an overdraft at your bank immediately, that will help.
posted by gaspode at 1:03 PM on October 11, 2005

Even without the SSN, you're not going to have the credit history to qualify you for a credit card. You'll probably have to talk to your bank manager to get a secured card.

As mentioned above though, a debit card or an additional card on a friend/relative's account will work too.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm pretty sure you're a non-resident alien. (That doesn't mean you don't live in th US or that you're in the US illegally. Just that for legal purposes you're non-resident). To be a resident alien, you have to either have a greencard, or fulfill a "substantial presence" requirement for the past 3 years. I assume since you say you just moved here, that you don't have 3 years of "substantial presence."

You can still get an SSN without being a resident, and there's no reason to think getting an ITIN would be any faster since it's essentially the same process to get both, and you already have the SSN process underway.

I got an unsecured credit card without a SSN or ITIN, as a university affiliate card. I know someone else who got one through a credit union, which might be another route to try.
posted by duck at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2005

Oh, one alternative: according to friends who've done this, if you have an AmEx card from your home country, it's not too difficult to get a US one issued.
posted by holgate at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2005

You are actually a "resident", just a "temporary" one.

Open a bank account and get the bank's checking card. It will work as a visa or mastercard in almost all situations.

The few exceptions are things that use the card as a security deposit, like car rentals. They only accept real credit cards.

And get a secured credit card, even if its just for $500, to start building your credit history.
posted by sd at 1:32 PM on October 11, 2005

there's no reason to think getting an ITIN would be any faster since it's essentially the same process to get both

Nup. SSN is a slow service-we-provide-you process through the Social Security Administration, especially if they have to stop what they're doing and talk to INS-successor agencies (which they probably will). Before they give you an SSN, SSA has to check to make sure you're not an illegal. On the other hand, an ITIN is a fast we-want-to-tax-you process through the IRS.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2005

If it has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, it will work anywhere you need a credit card number.

Not completely true. I tried to rent a truck from Menard's and they wouldnt take a debit card, only a credit card.
posted by goethean at 3:21 PM on October 11, 2005

On the other hand, an ITIN is a fast we-want-to-tax-you process through the IRS.

Not as fast as it used to be. Since the end of 2003, you have to submit a tax return to get an ITIN (because the IRS doesn't want ITINs being used for ID purposes), although ITINs are often issued with work-related visas. It's a wonderful headlong collision of state and federal law.

I'm not sure if debit cards (as opposed to bank transfers) can be used for recurring payments, such as monthly cellphone or ISP bills. Anyone know?
posted by holgate at 3:30 PM on October 11, 2005

There are those temporary pay-as-you-go credit cards I've seen for sale at places like Walgreens. Those would probably work fine for small transactions...
posted by First Post at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2005

I use a debit card for recurring transcations.
posted by duck at 6:51 PM on October 11, 2005

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